Getting back to normal

In September 2022 the Electra Mining exhibition was held after not being able to take place since 2018, because of the pandemic. I have always been a great advocate of attending exhibitions wherever possible as they are a great source of information and the networking opportunities are endless. Whether the exhibition represents the source of new equipment or new ideas, attending the show contributes to ‘continuous improvement’ efforts on your behalf.

Some exhibitions that I have attended, just walking the aisles and studying the exhibits can be an education in itself. I always encourage fellow South African visitors that have attended the same exhibition at the same time as me, to make time to do this because too often you can get caught at one stand as the company salesman tries to ‘lock’ you in.

Wandering is not effective as a sole strategy, but it works well as an aid or augment to your known plans. In addition to what you know you want to see, make time for what you will want to see that you do not know about yet. The best way to do this is that once you have determined how much time you need to visit the companies you know you want to see, add another half-day. That is, an open half-day just to walk slowly, look around and see what catches your eye. It is amazing what you see and it allows you to engage with representatives that you would not normally have access to. All manner of thoughts, ideas and discussions evolve from these unplanned meetings and it’s always very rewarding for both parties.

Electra Mining was no different except that it took place not long after the world had been through a very difficult period. The buzz and the eagerness to engage was very evident. People looked grateful for the fact that they were able to escape the confinements of Zoom or Teams meetings and actually experience the face-to-face contact again. Or should I say being human again.

There is also evidence that people and companies have not been idle during lock-down and isolation times. Many innovations have been developed in the past few years, with a focus on cost, sustainability, digital networking, simple machines and resource efficiency. While digitalisation and Industry 4.0 were topics that only large companies were realising previously, these key drivers have now reached the factories of small and medium-sized companies. Integrating the latest machinery and software into their manufacturing process is a must. The pressure is more so on the software developers to deliver rather than machine development.

What companies have realised though is that the disruption to the supply chain has been immense because of the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Supply chains lack the global resilience they once had and are breaking down in the face of multi-country disruptions. Supply chain and operations are becoming more costly e.g., less global and ecommerce fulfilment costs and can often represent a company’s highest costs.

Reshoring is the buzz word despite the world’s economic and inflationary woes at the moment. Those castings or components that were being imported by the thousands are no longer available from China. Or at least in a time period that was acceptable previously. This could be a negative for some but a positive for others – get your castings or components manufactured locally. Our local manufacturing industry does not lack the technology – only the disruptive and unproductive labour force which drives up the costs.